Happy Birthday, Amitabh Bachchan. Bollywood’s Shahenshah Turns 79

Amitabh Bachchan – the name is synonymous with Indian Cinema in many parts of the world. The actor who has more than 190 feature films to his credit, other than his many special appearances, songs and even a popular TV show hosting stint, is considered the absolute Shahenshah of Bollywood.

 

As the actor turns 79 today, we take a look at the life and career of the living legend.

 

Amitabh Bachchan – the name is synonymous with Indian Cinema in many parts of the world. The actor who has more than 190 feature films to his credit, other than his many special appearances, songs and even a popular TV show hosting stint, is considered the absolute Shahenshah of Bollywood.

As the actor turns 79 today, we take a look at the life and career of the living legend.
Born in the tumultuous year of 1942, Amitabh Bachchan was almost named Inquilab by his freedom fighter parents, renowned poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Teji. After a family friend intervened, the name Amitabh was chosen. His name means ‘the light that will never go off.’
Nicknamed Munna by his parents, he would soon find himself playing big brother to Ajitabh.
Big B is married to Jaya Bachchan. His personal life was deeply entwined with his professional journey, for a romance that began on the sets of 1972’s Ek Nazar became the love story scripted in the best Bollywood fashion. The couple was married on June 3, 1973 following the success of Zanjeer.
Amitabh Bachchan is perhaps the most famous alumnus of Nainital’s Sherwood College, and later Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College, where he was actively involved in theatre. At the time, acting wasn’t a priority for young Amitabh – who aspired to be an engineer or an officer with the Indian Air Force.

Before he realised his dream to, he worked in Kolkata with Shaw Wallace Breweries, which was followed by a stint with the shipping firm Bird & Co. as a freight broker.

But corporate Kolkata held little attraction for the young Amitabh. With his baritone, that would become his trademark later, left All India Radio unimpressed. His voice was deemed too heavy for radio and he was shown the door after auditioning for the post of newsreader.

He didn’t even qualify in the preliminary round of a talent contest held by Filmfare, which added salt to his wounds and a dejected Amitabh left Kolkata to join his parents in Delhi.

On February 16, 1969, Amitabh moved to Mumbai to try his luck as an actor and, with no place to stay, Big B spent many nights on the benches skirting Marine Drive. For a while he did radio spots that earned him Rs. 50 a month and morphed into the narrator’s role in Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome.

In a 1999 interview, Mr Bachchan admitted that at the time he had a driving license and, if his dream had failed, he would have resorted to the life of a cab driver.

But when his brother Ajitabh informed him that director K A Abbas was looking for a fresh face for his film Saat Hindustani, Amitabh arrived at the director’s doorstep armed with a letter of introduction from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, mother of his good friend Rajiv. He was cast as Muslim poet Anwar Ali Anwar and won the National Award for Best Newcomer in 1970. But despite this initial breakthrough, leading roles were hard to come by for the tall, dark but not conventionally handsome Amitabh.
The year 1971 saw six films that featured Big B, including Anand starring Rajesh Khanna that won Mr Bachchan the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance as Dr. Bhaskar Banerjee, the Bengali doctor fondly referred to as Babu Moshai by Rajesh Khanna’s Anand Sehgal. But even Anand offered no respite from the black hole that Big B’s career was languishing in even before it had taken off. He did some more itsy-bitsy roles here and there, and again took to the microphone as the voice of the narrator in the Rajesh Khanna starrer Bawarchi (1972). Some misses followed, including the 1973 film Saudagar alongside Nutan and Padma Khanna.

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